“Mr. Halevi, we have a little problem.”
When someone says with that telltale Israeli accent that something is wrong, it usually means a lot of yelling, waiting, and anxiety. It never occurred to me that even in this, the beautiful hand of Hashem was guiding my family in Merciful Compassion.
“Your check has bounced.”
My wife and I just purchased a car. To insure a fast delivery, we had to put down a big percentage of the full purchase price. When they called I was a little
surprised. I was sure I had the proper funds. The first thing I did was to check my bank statement. Did my bank take the money out of my account?
I began to panic. The money was gone, but the car company hasn’t received payment. It’s like my savings fell through a hole.
It must have been the change place. Instead of exchanging my dollars for shekels at a bank, I go to the local change place. They give me a much more generous exchange rate, and the people I do business with are neighbors.
There had to be a mistake.
When my neighbor saw the look on my face, she didn’t even ask what was wrong.
“Get a cup of coffee upstairs and relax. In ten minutes we will find out what the problem is.”
Those were among the longest ten minutes of my life. It felt like I way paying a thousand dollars for every sip.
“We found out that the car company’s bank wasn’t comfortable with what was written on the check. They need a check that is written more clearly. My associate is personally going to the bank to clear everything up.”
When she saw the blood return to my face, she felt obliged to warn me:
“Remember that you write about Shmirat HaBrit so there is no need to give me a hug. But I’ll be happy to have a piece of your Danish.”
A couple of days later I get a call from the car company.
“Hello Dovber! How are you!”
There was no reason for another call. The car wouldn’t be ready for another week and the money was safely in their account. I braced for the worst.
“Please tell me that you are calling about the color we picked out. I don’t have the strength to deal with anything else.”
The associate at the company was as eager to make a sale as I was to make a purchase.
“It all depends on how you look at it. The way I see it, this is nothing more than a solution waiting to happen. You just need to put in a little more effort.”
“There is a problem with your olim papers. Having lived here once before you are no longer eligible for the tax breaks that new immigrants get.”
“I have to pay the standard taxes? That’s a lot of money. Did you explain to the tax officials that I came back to Israel with my wife who just made aliyah? As a ‘mixed couple,’ we are eligible for full benefits?”
“Of course I explained it to them. Now you have to. Here is the address. Bezrat Hashem, they will give you an extension on your rights. I will prepare the proper documents and you can present them to the officials on Thursday. ”
“That’s in two days. What’s going to happen to our fast delivery?”
“Hey, you will have this care for many years, what’s another week?”
All I have to do from here is to convince the Israeli IRS to allow me to pay less in taxes. How hard could that be?
“No, no, NO! Absolutely not. Your tax benefits ran out a long time ago. No breaks! You pay full price.”
Arguing with the tax official was like talking to a wall. Nothing worked. I had to use the good old, “we’re olim” approach.
He sent me to another office.
“The rules are the rules. You have to pay full taxes for your car.”
In desperation, I began to pour it on thick. I explained how my wife left the former Soviet Union to get here, how we just gave birth to our first Israeli born baby, and to really hit home, I pulled out the pictures.
She sent me to another office.
“You cannot get any rights pure and simple.”
Strike three. In my head I was already calculating how much in dollars this would cost me.
“But your wife has full olim rights. If you purchase the car in her name, you get the tax exemption. As her husband you can drive the car anyway. Here, I will make a note in your file.”
Did the attorney for the Israeli IRS just find me a tax break? This country really does value its newcomers.
We completed the purchase a week and a half later.
At first glance, this episode looks like the standard chain of headaches and ulcers that accompany someone trying navigating the labyrinth we call Israeli bureaucracy.
In reality it was all a great blessing from Hashem.
My mother in law and her mother were planning to visit. We decided that we should get a car right away so that we would have it in time for their visit. Right away landed on the 2nd of Av, the day I wrote the check.
I reasoned that we were saving money by not having to make another car payment on our current rental. If we got a car that would make for a better stay for our parents, it would be a mitzvah.
Hashem was watching. He overruled our reasoning. Problem after problem arose.
All if these “problems” kept arising until we completed our transaction – on the 11th of Av. In sending us bank tellers with bad reading glasses, tax officials who knew the letter of the law perfectly, and documents processors who use a typewriter to process their papers, Hashem wouldn’t allow us to buy our car until after the 9 days of Av.
If HaKadosh Baruch Hu shows so much concern for a simple family purchase, imagine all that He is doing to protect our nation in right now.